Town of Shelter Island History
A partnership of four wealthy sugar merchants from Barbados purchased Shelter Island from the Manhanset Native Americans. Their intent was to harvest the island’s white oak to build the barrels required for the business. Of the four, only Nathaniel Sylvester settled there, bringing his 16 year old bride Grissel in 1652. Sylvester viewed the island, Fisher Island, and other parts of Long Island as his sole property. However, these estates were owned in a partnership with the other sugar merchants (his brothers) who never visited Long Island. At the time of Sylvester’s death in 1680, he believed he was the sole owner of the real estate and left it to his wife and sons. This included what is today called Sylvester Manor, one of the island’s most historic properties.
In the late 19th Century, the island developed as a Methodist retreat and summer camp. Some of the homes from this era are still found in Shelter Island Heights, including the Chequit Inn, which was used as a church meeting hall.